UW Emergency Management

HAZMAT incidents


The users of hazardous materials at the University have historically had a good safety record. Sound safety programs, a controlled environment allowing ready access to the general site and the product, good equipment, a tested quick response capability and well-drilled personnel have contributed to this excellent record. However, incidents can occur in even the safest environment and an absence or breakdown of any of the above safeguards could result in a major emergency. User incidents may result from equipment failure, human error, failure to follow established procedures, natural disaster, or sabotage.


Resources and references available to all UW students, faculty and staff

The UW utilizes a computerized inventory system called “MyChem” and manufacturer-supplied Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) which can be used for pre-event planning as well as for response reference in a localized spill or accident. The Seattle Fire Department as well as various Federal, State and UW rules and regulations require that this chemical information be accessible to the entire UW community. More detailed information on these systems and requirements can be found at University’s Environmental Health and Safety Department. A valid UWNetID and password are required to access MyChem MSDSs are available readily to all faculty staff and students. Inventory information is restricted by registration accounts.


If caught at the scene of an accident

  • If you see an accident, call 9-1-1 or the local fire department to report the nature and location of the accident as soon as possible.
    Move away from the accident scene and help keep others away.
  • Do not walk into or touch any of the spilled substance. Try not to inhale gases, fumes and smoke. If possible, cover mouth with a cloth while leaving the area.
  • Stay away from accident victims until the hazardous material has been identified.
  • Try to stay upstream, uphill and upwind of the accident.
  • How you may be notified of a major Haz Mat incident
    • In the event of a major chemical emergency, you will be notified by the authorities. To get your attention, a siren could sound, you may be called by telephone, or emergency personnel may drive by and give instructions over a loudspeaker. Officials could even come to your door.
      Listen carefully to radio or television emergency alert stations (EAS), and strictly follow instructions. Your life could depend on it.

You will be told:

  • The type of health hazard
  • The area affected
  • How to protect yourself
  • Evacuation routes (if necessary)
  • Shelter locations
  • Type and location of medical facilities
  • Phone numbers to call if you need extra help

Do not call the telephone company, and do not call EMS, 9-1-1, or the operator for information. Dial these numbers only for a possible life-threatening emergency.


  • You can provide a minimal amount of protection to your breathing by covering your mouth and nose with a damp cloth.
  • Close all windows
  • Turn off all fans, heating and air conditioning systems
  • Go to an above-ground room (not the basement) with the fewest windows and doors
  • Wet some towels and jam them in the crack under the doors
  • Stay in the room and listen to your radio until you are told all is safe or you are told to evacuate


Authorities may decide to evacuate an area for your protection. Again, it is important to stay calm, listen carefully and follow all instructions.
If you are told to evacuate, listen to your radio to make sure the evacuation order applies to you and to understand if you are to evacuate immediately or if you have time to pack some essentials. Do not use your telephone.

If you are told to evacuate immediately:

  • Take your personal belongings and medications
  • Close and lock your windows
  • Shut off all vents
  • Lock the door
  • Move quickly and calmly


  • Return to building only when authorities say it is safe.
  • Follow local instructions concerning the safety of food and water.
  • Clean up and dispose of residue carefully. Follow instructions from emergency officials concerning clean-up methods.

Additional information

For information about HAZMAT “on the go,” download the Cargo Decoder app to your smartphone. (Android, iOS and Blackberry versions available in respective app stores)

Keeping updated

  • UW Information Line (recorded message) 206-UWS-INFO, Toll Free: 1-866-897-INFO
  • Sign up for UW Alert
  • “Red Alerts” on UW Home page
  • Your supervisor, department/college administrator or building coordinator
  • KOMO 1000 AM (Emergency Alert System)